Friday, August 12, 2011

Grant Morrison: Supergods

Last week I read Grant Morrison's book Supergods and I couldn’t put down. I loved it so much that I’ve decided to reread it again right away. I’ve seen some negative criticisms of it, in which the writers are disappointed that about half way through, Morrison starts to talk too much about himself and his own work and that this derails what starts out as a history of the superhero. They accuse him of vanity. I think these critics miss the point of the book and Morrison doesn’t help his cause by misstating the purpose of the book himself, as he writes it, by saying repeatedly that it’s a book about superheroes.

The cover jacket proclaims “What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, And a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us about Being Human”. Of course the human that Morrison is most familiar with is himself, so, the book is an autobiography. Morrison’s identity is so shaped by the superhero that he has no choice but to attempt the history of superheroes as a part of that autobiography, but, although it is a history of superheroes and it is an autobiography, what the book is at its core is a  grimoire. While it doesn’t given any explicit directions into how to perform any superhero related magic, and to the uninitiated the parts of the book that talk about magic may seem to merely be the lunacy of a drug addled mind, to the initiated there is enough magic there to suggest material for experimentation and more than a few clues as to what sort of experiments Morrison has already successfully performed. While medieval grimoires seem to give technique, they really give broad outlines for procedures that require that the reader already have a grasp of the basics of magic and this book does the same. (For those who would like some technique to go with Morrison’s outline I would recommend Pop Culture Magick by Taylor Ellwood.)

In fact, while Morrison does tell us quite a bit about what superheroes through the years have said about humanity, he  seems less interested in that than he does in showing that they are a sign post to what humanity may become. In this he reminds me of the oath that a ceremonial magician in the Golden Dawn tradition takes upon being initiated into adepthood, in which he or she vows to strive to become “more than human.” He spends a lot of time showing how superheroes have changed from the birth of Superman in the 1930’s through the present due to shifting cultural influences. He is very interested in cultural influences and he makes a case that superheroes as memes have outlived their creators (and in fact are much longer lived than human beings in general) and have taken on a life of their own in a second dimensional ink universe that exists symbiotically with us from which we can take some benefits in much the way that magicians do from other archetypes. Further, their influence on our culture over the years is provable and ongoing and seeing how they influence the culture can show us how they will influence the future. I find his arguments very convincing although given changes in our world and the existence of other, older archetypes which influence and are influenced by superheroes, I would tend to think of them as existing more in a mental world than a 2D world. However, I am probably more influenced by Qabalistic cosmology than Morrison is.

In any event, it’s a good book and I highly recommend it to comic book fans and students of magic.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Great Comics: Miracleman

One of my favorite series of comic books was Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman's runs on Eclipse Comic's Miracleman.

Miracleman has a somewhat dysfunctional publication history. It started out in the 1950's as British reprints of Fawcett Comics' Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family. After Fawcett ceased publication as the result of a lawsuit by DC Comics which claimed that Captain Marvel infringed on their Superman copyrights, the British publisher that was doing the reprints wanted to keep going so they changed the character around a little, renamed him Marvelman and kept publishing. Marvelman was very successful, not fading from the scene until the early 1960's.

In the early 1980's Alan Moore took over the character, eventually publishing it through Eclipse comics in the United States where, at the insistence of Marvel Comics, the name of the character was changed to Miracleman.

During all of this history, ownership of the character was transferred around quite a bit with most of the ownership in the hands of writers (including Moore and Gaiman) and artists with bits of ownership going to publishers. Ultimately there were lawsuits and recently Marvel Comics has purchased the rights meaning that they have the right to reprint the old stuff and produce new comics. Let's hope they have enough of the rights that they can reprint Moore and Gaiman's run (if that doesn't hurt Moore and Gaimen in some way) in a lower cost format than is currently available so that new generations can see the sheer genius of their take on the character.

Moore's take on Miracleman and other members of the Miracleman family was ultra realistic and seems to be based on the question, what if people with the power of Superman existed in the real world? When we catch up with Miracleman himself, he is an old man who has (for reasons that unfold in the storyline) forgotten his childhood as a superhero. When he accidentally rediscovers his powers his life gets very confusing. While his personal life and superhero life present a lot of interesting twists and turns, one of the very interesting points for me is the fact that, as a child, when he became a superhero, like Captain Marvel, he transformed into an adult in his prime with superpowers. That stays true as an old man, when he transforms into Miracleman, he still transforms into a super powered adult in his prime, meaning, rather than appearing older, he has his youth restored and the storyline suggests that if he stops returning to human form, he will be immortal.

This gets even more interesting when we learn that his former sidekick, Kid Miracleman, at thirteen years old, turned into his superhuman adult form and never turned back. On some level he remains a thirteen year old mentally and emotionally. During the time that Miracleman had forgotten his powers and grown old, Kid Miracleman was becoming one of the richest men in the world and a sociopath.

I have always found the theme of unlimited power in children very interesting. St. Augustine in his autobiographical work Confessiones says that children are basically evil. He of course attributes this to original sin. Whether or not we believe in original sin, he makes a pretty good argument for why you could call children evil. Their behavior, if it were exhibited by adults, would be considered evil. The reason we tend to overlook that behavior in children is because they don't know any better. Augustine points out that we pretty much end up beating proper behavior into children.

Another great take on the subject would of course be the classic Twilight Zone episode starring Bill Mummy as a child with unlimited power who controls a small town full of people who are utterly terrified of him and his capricious use of that power.

 Eventually Kid Miracleman goes off the deep end with results that are apocalyptic for the human race. While we do have Miracleman to fight on our side, Kid Miracleman's assault on the world takes place at super speed and by the time Miracleman can intervene civilization is already pretty much done for.

In Moore's last issue Miracleman, Miraclewoman and their alien allies decide that it is best for humanity if they take totalitarian control of the world, not just as tyrants or monarchs but as gods. There is of course opposition but who can stop Superman once he puts his mind to something? It is here that Neil Gaiman takes over the book. Those of you who have read his work before know that he is a master story teller with a keen grasp of the mythological. We get to see Miracleman set up a utopia on Earth with many issues to deal with, from revolution against totalitarianism (is it a good thing even when what is being revolted against is a paradise?), to freewill (is freewill more important than paradise?) and we can only guess how many others as Eclipse went bankrupt and we didn't get to see most of the stories that Gaiman had planned.

I seriously doubt that Marvel will pick up the story (even though Gaimen did do some work for them fairly recently as a part of picking sides in the lawsuits to determine who would own the book), which is a shame because I know I'd love to see it. We can hope that they will reprint the stories that did get written, so that a new generation of fans can see them. Meanwhile, if you've got big bucks and can afford the reprints that are out there, or can get the old issues from your comic book store, go for it, it's worth every penny.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Interesting People: cat yronwode

I have a crush on cat yronwode. I know I know: who is she and so what? Well…I've gotten it into my head to occasionally write about interesting people so, here you go.

I first ran across Ms. yronwode in the letter column of my favorite comic book, the Avengers. People who have been reading everything that I write (okay, I know that no one is reading everything that I write) know that the Avengers has always been my favorite comic book. Apparently cat (cat, can I call you cat?) is, or at least was, a fan too. I don't honestly remember the content of her letter but it was submerged in my subconciousness when I was still a wee lad and must still be there influencing me. Going through my huge and highly disorganized comic collection to find it would be such a chore that unless the powers that be bring it to the top (which they sometimes do), I don't think I'll be seeing it in time to include it in this post. I did however Google to see if it was out there on the web somewhere and I read some things from fan boys who had seen her on the letter pages of other comics that I read back in my grammar and high school days, so I guess there is much more of her lurking in the ol' sub c than I would have guessed.

The next time I ran into Ms. y, was in the eighties in the pages of Air Boy. I must have been a recent college graduate at that point. I resisted Air Boy for awhile. I was already buying many Marvel and DC titles, which were beginning to make a transition to higher quality paper and colors, I was unhappy about this because it meant a huge leap in cost and I was at a low ebb financially. I had no real interest in buying more titles or in alternative comic companies. While I had enjoyed some Atlas comics in the seventies, their implosion left me with some stories that I liked, but which had never concluded. I had picked up E-Man too of course, it was cool and sexy, but most of the alternative titles I had picked up back in the day were poorly done all the way around. Still, I kept paging through Air Boy without buying it. It had one big minus, it was out twice a month, so, it screwed up my budget, but it had pluses, the art by Tim Truman was absolutely incredible and although I had never heard of Chuck Dixon, the story looked good, and of course, to my young male psyche, Valkyrie was just about the hottest chick in comics and demanded attention.

What finally got me to plunk down my fifty cents was an appearance by The Heap. I didn't really know anything more about The Heap than what I had read in Jim Steranko's history of comics, but, one day my father had seen me reading a copy of Marvel's Man-Thing and since he had read The Heap in his own childhood he felt compelled to see if The Man-Thing was The Heap. When he realized they weren't the same he told me that the Man-Thing was based on an old character called The Heap and so, when I saw The Heap, I had no choice but to check it out.

After that I was hooked. I liked Eclipse comics a lot, especially Miracleman by Alan Moore and later Neil Gaiman which was just brilliant. However one of the high points for me was reading cat's editorials. (She was the editor in chief and one of the owners of Eclipse Comics.) Again, although I remember how much I enjoyed reading what she wrote I don't remember much of what it was about. I do remember one in which she talked about all of the mail that she got from readers, including a death threat from Buffalo, New York. I live in Buffalo and that one unnerved me. A: How could someone want to hurt this charming woman who was a behind the scenes force for so many great comics? B: Why would someone want to commit murder because of something in a comic book? And C: was this deranged person someone that I saw every week in my local comic book store? I still wonder about that one. I wrote her to express my admiration and concern but I never heard back from her. I hadn't really expected to. I had written to comic book editors before and been published in letter columns. Once the legendary Julius Schwartz did write me back personally which was really cool, but, rare.

Eclipse and cat were cool on some other fronts too. Not only did they produce comics but bizarre trading card sets like, Friendly Dictator Trading Cards and Serial Killer Trading Cards. I remember this caused quite a stir and Eclipse had to fight some legal battles but I never got the impression that they were trying to glamorize dictators or serial killers. I think they were just trying to point out the evil in our midst, in the case of the dictators, evil that our tax dollars keep in place. In any event, it was gutsy and I liked it.

So, already we've got two really good reasons for me to have a crush on her. The first is that she was a girl who liked comic books. I can count the number of girls that I've met who like comic books on one hand. The second was that she liked them enough that she was actually a force in their creation. How cool is that?

Well, Eclipse comics went under and the eighties turned into the nineties and Ms. yronwode (she prefers that her name be spelled without capitalization, I wonder if that's as big a pain in the rear with her word processor as it is with mine?) slipped from my mind but, the nineties brought with it the all consuming internet and again I was hooked and began what would seem to be a new lifetime love of web surfing. I had always been interested in magic and occultism and in the nineties I also hooked up with my first rock star magic teacher. One day I decided to do some web surfing on the subject of sex magic. I had been aware that sex magic existed since I first began to practice ceremonial magic but, the woman that I had married in 1990 was completely uninterested in the topic so the most I could do was read about it, and, there wasn't really that much to read. Western sex magicians tend to keep their stories to themselves and I'm a bad enough speller that looking up anything about eastern sex magic (Tantra) can be really tough, especially in those dark days before Google. In any event, while surfing for websites about sex magic or sex yoga, boom, there again in my awareness was cat yronwode. Not just someone like me, an interested party, but an actual practitioner and willing to talk about it. I think I dashed her off an e-mail right away but again, I never heard anything from her, although in the stuff of hers that I was reading she did mention that she got an enormous amount of e-mail. I believed it.

This synchronicity was really interesting to me. This woman's name kept coming up. I liked that and wanted to know why, but no answers were forthcoming. However, at this point how could I not have a crush on her? This woman was into comic books and Tantric sex… what's not to love? I guess I should point out that Tantric sex is a form of worship and theurgy designed to put the practitioners in a deep communion with his and her deity concept.  It's not just about prolonging sex for hours and hours, although, that is a rather nice side effect. The more western form of sex magic is also a form of communion but can also be used to cause change in accordance with the participants will.

Since then I've returned to her web domain from time to time to see what's up and I have to admit that I love it there. She's not just into the sex aspect of magic but into the magic itself. As far as I know she is the most public promoter of the form of magic called Hodoo out there and everything that I know about Hodoo is from her site. She is also an archivist and has at her site copies of many of the old occult internet news groups that were popular before the advent of the World Wide Web. Her site is an occult supply store, a historical research site on folk ways, a magical archive, a grimoire filled with folk spells and an exploration of her own psyche and life (which is pretty cool as she's been a real life hippy and lived on communes, the sort of stuff I dream of doing but am not cut out for, but I don't have to be because I can just read about her life). She has self published books on the site, one catalogues the spells used by comic book sorcerer Stephen Strange over the years and looks at what real magical items may have influenced artist Steve Ditko into drawing some of the items in Dr. Strange's world the way that he did. Did I mention I have a crush on this woman?

I know that to some, the Dr. Strange thing may seem too far gone, but I remember a bit in a book on the history of occultism called something like, Pilgrims of the Night, about how the author knew someone who had successfully gotten the Dungeons and Dragons magical system to work in real life and therefore he figured it was more about the people than the system. Plenty of post modern magical systems agree and promote the exploration of works of fiction as a source for creating the sort of mental control necessary to work magic. Why not Doctor Strange's? I'm willing to give it a try.

So again, how can I not love her? Comic book fan, comic book creator, into tantric sex and an expert on one or more fields of magic, and, on top of all that, she's open, honest, and approachable on it. One of the last times I looked at her site I read a note from her that said something along the lines of "don't bother to e-mail me, I get too much e-mail to read and respond to it all, if it's important, here's my phone number, just call." Wow! I thought about calling, but, I'm not sure what I'd say. I don’t know if calling to gush with admiration, lust and camaraderie would be a good thing or just really embarrassing for me.

Now, the sad news, I was reading some self explorations of her psyche last night and discovered that one of her core needs is sexual fidelity. As far as I know she's still married and I know that I am, so…. Poof… my love for cat yronwode will be of the "pure and chaste from afar" variety, but, that's okay, in the realms of fantasy, I get to edit that part out.

Cat (I can't get that to not capitalize at the beginning of a sentence, sorry) if this message in a bottle should wash up on the shore of your self-consciousness, please don't be offended, my respect, admiration and affection is sincere.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Brown Tarantula: Part 11

Copyright Robert F. Sacco

 The Brown Tarantula Parts 2, 5, 8 & 11 are at this blog

Part 11: The Hunter Becomes the Hunted
Detective Tom Slovino was having the rare good day. Before noon he knew a great deal about Delia Clarette. Without leaving his cubical he had learned that she owned the red Honda Civic he had seen at the destruction of the meth lab, had found her Facebook page and matched her pictures there to the picture of the girl in the domino mask (and of course, domino masks really do nothing to conceal ones face) and learned who her friends were, her family history, where she went to school and where she worked. He had gotten her college transcripts past and present easily. About the only thing he didn't know was her connection to the Tarantula. He figured that would come out with a search of her brownstone. This of course meant a search warrant so he reluctantly told the lieutenant what he had found. While the lieutenant schmoozed some judge into getting the warrant, Tom went down town to her place of employment, Winthrop Industries Energy Exploration Division, to nose around.

At Winthrop they were worried about her. She hadn't turned up for work this morning which was unusual, and, she hadn't even called in which was unheard of as she called in even when she was going to be five minutes late. The arrival of a police detective asking questions about her had not soothed their fears. He didn't learn much of value though. Her work didn't seem to have any relevance to the case. She was well thought of, diligent in the performance of her duties, but, lacked ambition. Some of her closest co-workers thought that she was a little odd in that she didn't date much or have much of a social life, but, they had all written this off to how time consuming it was to work and go to school at the same time.

Back at the precinct house Pearson had the search warrant for Delia's premises but, he also had a message from Winthrop Industries. Pearson said that they had called about five minutes after he had left there. Tom had talked to some management types but this call had come from the executives working out of the Winthrop mansion. They said they had information that might be helpful to him and that he should stop by before the end of the day to talk to them. This ignited a curiosity in Tom. He didn't particularly like the idea of driving out to Lakeshore and mingling with the hoity-toity at the mansion but, he had absolutely no idea what they could have for him and he was eager to find out. However, he decided to put first things first and check out Delia's brownstone.

 Interviewing some of her neighbors did not produce any valuable information. As far as he could tell she was a hard working upstanding young lady who had good, friendly relationships with all of her neighbors. No one had seen her yet today but it was still early enough that given work and school, this was not unusual. One elderly lady actually had possession of Delia's spare key which meant that when she turned out not to be home, he didn't have to knock the door down, although the lady was very disturbed at the fact that he had a warrant to search the premises. The old lady couldn't make up her mind as to whether this made the police department incompetent, Tom a horrible individual, or Delia some sort of terrible person who had been good at disguising that until now. That was Delia's problem. Tom was just doing his job.

Once inside Tom confirmed everything that he had already discovered and came to the conclusion that Delia was even lonelier than her co-workers and neighbors suspected. In fact, it seemed to him, based on the contents of her home that all she did was work and study and that her home was a monument to her mostly deceased family. She was draping herself in the past and merely working in the present.

Tom was excellent at performing searches and he found the secret room with hardly any effort. Most of the effects normally stored there were out at the Donaldson mansion at the moment but the framed newspaper page from 1939 asking, "Who is the Tarantula" still hung there telling Tom everything that he thought he needed to know. Like everything else in this building, it was a relic of the Clarette family's past. In 1939 her great grandfather had some connection to the Tarantula. Delia still felt that link and had gone to help the Tarantula. Based on what he had seen at the meth lab, she was unaware of whatever his plan was that night, and she had no experience as a masked vigilante. She had gone off in search of him and had found him. The question now was, what did he do with her? Would he take her into his confidence? Let her go as an innocent, or eliminate her for knowing too much? This left him two options. He could put out an APB on her and hopefully find her, or, he could put the Brownstown, her place of business and school under surveillance so he would know if she returned to her life. Both might be hard to accomplish since this investigation was supposed to be on the QT. He would have to discuss that with the lieutenant later. If he had no other clues he just might have to stake out the brownstone himself. For now though, he had one more lead to follow up out at the Winthrop estate.

The rain had finally broken and the drive out to Lakeview should have been pleasant but Tom was lost in thought about Delia. He didn't know her, but he had come to feel sorry for her. Everything he knew about her suggested that she was a nice, albeit lonely girl. Now, excitement had entered her life, possibly for the first time and it was linked to a mass murderer who she probably saw as an agent of justice and to whom she had an emotional connection because of her reverence of her family. He thought about her pretty pink face and turned up pointed nose and hoped that she was alive and that he could help her.

At the front gate of the Winthrop mansion he was guided not to the front door but to the "business entrance". The business entrance looked like every door to a business establishment downtown, with people in a hurry coming and going, especially as the end of the day was nearing, and clusters of people smoking cigarettes. Once inside he stopped at a reception desk where he was given directions to a nearby elevator and told that the appropriate parties would be notified that he was on the way. When he entered the elevator he noted without interest that the building had four floors underground and that he was going to the lowest. When the elevator doors opened he found himself in a hospital. At first this made him wonder if the receptionist had given him faulty directions. After a moment he began to wonder why this facility was here. He could see an older rich man having medical equipment and a medical staff on hand. Lord knew that Caleb Winthrop could afford that, and, if your wealth afforded you the luxury of having your medical care at home, well, why not? He could also understand a large business facility having a nurse's office or even a first aid center for its employees but this was a full-fledged hospital or research facility of some sort. Just as he was about to get back on the elevator two men who looked like hospital orderlies approached him and one asked "Detective Slovino?" Tom nodded, they asked him to follow, and he did.

Tom Slovino had learned during time spent working the streets as a flatfoot to be aware of when he was in danger. The fact that one "orderly" led the way and that the other fell back and behind him was making him feel in danger. One: Why was he here? Two: What was this place? Three: Why send two guys to meet him? Four: Why send two really big strong guys to meet him? Five: why was one of them behind him? He tensed and prepared to move at a moment's notice but continued to look unconcerned. At the end of a long corridor were a set of double doors that looked like the doors that patients are usually wheeled through for surgery. The orderly in the lead pushed open the doors and Tom got a quick glance of something that caused his adrenaline to surge and fear to assault his rational mind. There were three operating tables in the room. Two of them had men on them surrounded by people performing some sort of operation on their heads. He was pretty sure that one of their brains was exposed. More "doctors" were forming a group around the empty table and, most terrifying of all, he saw what he thought looked like three large brains with dangling nervous systems floating in the air, crackling with some sort of energy that looked electrical. He heard the orderly behind him spring forward but the fear hadn't crippled Tom's readiness. He dodged to his left, spun on his heels and sprinted back the way they came.

One of the orderlies yelled "stop him" and people seemed to turn towards him from every direction. On both sides of him were walls, the one on the right had entrances to other rooms. If this were a real hospital you'd expect them to be recovery rooms or patient's rooms, in either case, dead ends. He remembered what looked like a nurses' station just a short distance ahead so he pushed aside a couple of men moving to block him, vaulted over the nurse's station gaining access to another corridor and began knocking over carts and small pieces of furniture behind him to slow pursuit. The problem was, now he was lost. No one had pulled any weapons and they were all acting like medical professionals so he wasn't afraid that anyone but the two orderlies could actually stop him. He hadn't pulled his own gun yet but he was ready. There was a maze of corridors and he changed direction at random but he knew it was only a matter of time before there were security guards or more orderlies cutting him off at some sort of pass. When it came, it was four men in police style riot gear leveling what looked to him like some sort of taser rifles at him. The good news seemed to be that they didn't want him dead. The bad news was, he thought that they might want to take out his brain and put one of those… things… in it. He knew that the Tarantula's armor and car were something out of a bad sci-fi movie but this was downright insane.

He pulled his gun and fired two shots at the guards. He was pleased to see that they didn't put any faith in their bullet proof vests and ducked to either side. By the way they moved he was under the impression that they hadn't seen combat. He charged right down at them, pushed through the two on the right and continued down the right corridor. He heard them fire their rifles behind him but he stayed just ahead of the wires fired out from them which would need to touch him to zap him. He couldn't keep up this pace for much longer, but, he saw coming into a view a cargo elevator platform that was going down. He jumped onto it, hit one of the men already aboard with his left palm forcing his head into a hard rock wall, fired a shot at the oncoming guards, slowing them a bit and slugged the other guy on the platform with the gun. As soon as the floor that the platform was descending to became visible he leapt from the platform. This corridor gave him hope. It was unfinished rock and looked as if it had been mined rather than constructed. He paused to take a quick breath then took off down the corridor.

He could hear the security guards pursuing from behind as he reached a cross corridor. He could continue straight or move to the right or left. He glanced in all three directions and in all three directions there were three floaty brain things moving slowly in his direction. He turned to the right and fired a bullet into one of them. The others kept right on floating towards him but the one he shot paused and slowly ejected the bullet then, resumed its approach towards him. He fired all of the remaining bullets at the brains to the right and while they were ejecting the bullets he ran past them.

The corridor soon stopped looking like mine shaft and started looking like cave. He dodged and weaved around stalagmites and tried to become soundless and blend into the shadows. He heard the security guards but the floaty brain things were quiet which was troubling. It was too dark to see anything except the guards flashlights and the crackling electricity emitted by the brains. He didn't want to give away his own position by using his penlight so he decided to get to some higher ground to take advantage of the light provided by the guards.  He was once again aware that he was on borrowed time. He imagined Caleb Winthrop somewhere stroking a white cat ordering a small army to search the cave lest the secret that he is a super villain escape with Tom. He felt his way to a wall that had an incline and began to climb. He intended to sit at a high perch and watch what the guard's lights illuminated in the hopes of spotting some way out of the cave but when he reached the top of the pile of stones he had carefully and quietly climbed, he noticed that there was a gap between the incline and the ceiling. It was a small gap which made it very hard to see unless a light were shinned directly at it, and, it was just barely big enough for Tom to squeeze through, so, throwing caution to the wind, he did.

When he emerged on the other side of the hole he found himself sliding down a loose pile of rock and stone getting covered with cuts and bruises. Now completely in the dark he risked using his penlight and saw that he was in a very narrow space between two piles of rock, the one he had just slid down and one exactly like it in front of him. At the top of that pile of rock there was no convenient hole but there was a pin prick of light. He climbed to the top. The pinprick was too small for him to see through, so he slowly, and quietly began to move rock and earth aside in hopes of getting a look.

This Story is 15 parts long. Now get the whole story including parts 13, 14 & 15 at: The Brown Tarantula The Whole Story

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Knightriders, by George A. Romero, Starring Ed Harris: A Movie Review

One of the nice things about how much video is out there online or on DVD is that I can do reviews of my favorite movies even though they aren't up at the theater and haven't been for a long time.

One of my favorite movies is a film called "Knightriders" written and directed by George A. Romero and starring Ed Harris. Romero is best known for his low budget horror movies and while this movie is low budget if falls more under the "heroic fiction" category than the horror category. (Although there is a brief cameo by Stephen King who plays a member of an audience who is obnoxiously commenting on things that he is seeing without really knowing what he's talking about. He's really good at it too.) 


Here's the gist of the story. Billy (Ed Harris) is the King Arthur of a small band of motorcycle riding knights. They travel from town to town making a living by putting on shows in which they joust from cycle back. The entertainment that they give to, and the money that they make from the audiences are secondary. The knight's status in their small community is determined by how well they do in the jousts.

While there is an indication that the truth, justice and chivalry that these knights believe in is pretty much the same as you would expect from any heroic knight, all we really see them fighting for is their small, albeit diverse, community which includes people from multiple ethnicities and gay men and women. For some of them it's about the bikes. For some it's the freedom of the open road. For others it's just about living an alternate life style. For some it's about fun. For King Billy it's about the heroic ideal.

The knights are the ruling class of this small community, but not the only members, they have picked up a lot of other people who love the dream, so they have mechanics who work on the bikes and vendors who sell food and handmade jewelry at the shows. They have jugglers and musicians and their camp is a cross between a renaissance fair and a Society for Creative Anachronism event. I should point out that the movie was released in 1981 and shows a lot of 1970's counter culture influence. Much of what is progressive about the way these people live their lives is no longer as shocking as it was then.

Our merry band has three basic problems. The first is that they are misfits who don't really belong anywhere who are living a gypsy lifestyle. They encounter all of the problems that you would expect living on the road, corrupt law enforcement, ignorant and sometimes hostile townies etc. That's to be expected. Their bigger problem is themselves. They've grown too large. It costs them too much money to feed and outfit the troupe. They just don't have the money to keep going the way that they are.

The solution to this problem seems obvious. They are amateurs when it comes to show business but they've attracted enough attention that show business sees potential in them. Motorcycle magazines have been doing pieces on them and a promoter wants to sign them and get them out of playing small towns and into doing city shows. There is even talk of booking Vegas. However, King Billy keeps the option of going Show Biz off the table. It's not about the money, it's about the dream. It's about freedom. Keeping to a promoters schedule and performing the show in ways that are about making money rather than about their method of self rule is a violation of everything the group is about.

Not everyone agrees. About half of the knights, lead by Sir Morgan, the Black Knight (Tom Savini), are in favor of selling out for the money. The other half, want to keep with the dream but even some of them (Gary Lahti, who plays Alan, the Lancelot type) think that it couldn't hurt to reach some sort of compromise and bring in some more money.

The third big problem is that there is something of a constitutional crisis. Leadership is determined by combat on motorcycles. Billy has received enough injuries of late that Alan, Queen Linet (Amy Ingersoll) and Merlin (Brother Blue, check out his site, he really was living the dream until he passed away:, are opposed to Billy taking part in any more combats, his life is at risk. Seemingly in confirmation of that, Billy has been having dreams that he believes are prophetic about his death, but these dreams just seem to put Billy's mental health into question.

Billy is determined to live up to a set of ideals, the rest of the troupe can't get him to compromise with practical realities and therefore his leadership and his sanity are suspect.

In case you want to see the movie I won't go into detail about how the movie progresses from there but, it lives up to the heroic ideal.

Not only do I love this movie because it lives up to the heroic ideal (and so effectively parallels so many stories about Author and his knights), but also because it is chock full of very interesting characters with thought provoking sub-plots, for example:

Pippen (Warner Shook), a young man who is persecuted for being gay. Everyone knows he's gay except for he himself who questions who and what he is.

Angie (Christine Forrest), a tomboy grease monkey who isn't very feminine but who is deeply in love with Morgan, the black knight.

Julie (Patricia Tallman), a young woman who tries to escape from an abusive family and fails. (For those of you who may be fans of Babylon Five, this is the actress who plays the psychic, Lita. You won't be disappointed in her here.)

And that's just a few.

If you like low budget flicks, good stories, heroic fiction and great characterization, give it a view. It's also got lots of action. These people do, after all, joust from motorcycle back.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Brown Tarantula: Part 8

Copyright Robert F. Sacco
 Part 1 
 Parts 2 & 5 are on this blog.
 Part 7 

Part 8: Following up

Detective Tom Slovino was severely sleep deprived. He had been up until almost dawn coordinating emergency response to the explosion of the meth lab in Dunnbrick. Once the firefighters, paramedics and flatfoots had the scene under control and Tom had done as much interviewing and evidence collection as he thought would be useful, he headed to the office and got as many reports written as he could before his eyes started blurring. He managed to catch about an hour's sleep before his official shift started. A shower and a pot of coffee later and he was on his way back to his cube to finish up his reports and to start his search for the mystery lady who had been whisked away by the Tarantula. At least that was the plan. He was afraid that the day would actually be starting with a reprimand for not being at a donut shop in Dillbrook all night.

As expected, as soon as he entered the precinct house the desk sergeant had ordered him to report to Lieutenant Pearson's office. While not completely unexpected he was discouraged to see that the Captain was present as well. "Have a seat." The Lieutenant said. It was an order but his tone was surprisingly pleasant. "The Captain's brought down word from the Comish, through the Chief, that 'officially'", he made quotation marks with his fingers as he said "officially", "The hunt for the Tarantula and the fall of Charon are the department's top priorities, but, that the real game plan is to let the Tarantula do our job for us and then hope he just disappears the way he did back in forties." The Captain chimed in "We don't like it. We don't have to like it. It's not our job to like it." The Lieutenant resumed, "I know you've taken a personal interest in the case. Most of the scenes have been on your old beat. I know you've been through the old Tarantula case file… and then of course there's last night." "Look, sir.." Tom began, only to be interrupted by the Captain "Keep your yap shut and listen! You know that you should be on report right now, and, if it weren't for the union, you'd be out on your ass." Pearson cut in on the Captain, trying to be more pleasant "But… we think the way you do Tom." Tom knew something was wrong. The Lieutenant had never called him by his first name before, ever, and, if the Lieutenant really thought like he did, he wouldn't be so cheerful about the prospects of the department aiding and abetting a mass murderer."This guys a killer. He needs to be stopped. There isn't a lot we can do about him with the Chief and Commissioner holding together on this, but, if we can find out who he is, how he does what he does, well, then, just maybe, we'll find a way to make use of that information." The Captain resumed "The Chief's handpicked a couple of detectives from uptown to do the 'official' investigating. Really what they'll be doing is talking to the press at Tarantula scenes. You're gonna be our boy looking for the real leads. You get to keep your job, you get to keep your investigation, and you get to keep absolutely quiet and report only to the Lieutenant. Got it?" "Got it sir." Tom acknowledged. "Any leads yet Detective?" Pearson asked. "Yes sir. Red Honda Civic at the scene. Witnesses say the diver was taken off by the Tarantula. Gonna do a run down on it first thing." "Good work Tom, get back to me this afternoon."

As Tom made his way to his desk he was totally perplexed. He'd never really "gotten" departmental politics but this was just weird. Something was going on here but what? He remembered that the old file archivist had speculated that maybe the cops back in the forties had been working for organized crime and that the mob might have wanted to take down the Tarantula themselves. He considered that for a moment but, ultimately it didn't fit into any of the modern scenarios. Yeah, there were some dirty cops on the force who worked for Charon. Some of the guys thought the Captain or even the Chief might work for him. But, this wasn't Charon's style. It wouldn't bother Charon in the least if The Department brought down the Tarantula. He'd probably think it was funny. No, this was being played by the Commissioner and the Mayor, both of whom were as rich or richer than Charon. If anyone owned them it was the industrialist who funded the mayor's campaigns', Caleb Winthrop, but Winthrop backed anyone who looked like they were going to win so that he could get the big tax breaks he needed for his factories and such. This must be totally an election gambit so the Mayor and the Comish would, in two years, be able to point to the fall of Charon and claim some responsibility without actually having to go through the work of evidence and courts. As flamboyant as Charon was capable of being, he was really good at making sure that there was no evidence to link him to anything. The only evidence that they would need would be evidence against the Tarantula and getting that was his job. It pissed him off but there wasn't anything he could do about it, besides, he wanted to bring this lunatic down, so, he guessed that they had come to the right guy.

The best news about all of this was that, if he was reporting only to the Lieutenant, there were about a dozen reports that he had thought he needed to do this A.M. that were now off the table. Paperwork having evaporated, he was free to focus on the blond with the Domino Mask. He was glad that he had thought quickly and only mentioned her car. The car would be showing up in the flatfoots' reports anyway but no one but him knew that he had her picture. He figured, no matter what the real story going on here was, not a single player was being straight with him. That being the case, he thought it might be for the best if he kept his cards close to the vest. Not that it mattered. If she was dumb enough to have used her own car, the mob and the lieutenant would know who she was soon enough. Sitting at his computer, he plugged Delia's license plate number into the software that would look for it in the DMV's data base.

This Story has fifteen parts. I'll add links below as they are posted.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Filipe Andrade

No one who is reading this blog has left a comment yet, but I have a question for the comic book fan boys out there. Does anyone really like the art of Filipe Andrade? (His most recent work that I am aware of is the recently completed "Onslaught Unleashed" which I bought because I really like the Secret Avengers.)

The comic book art that I like is the stuff that seems realistic. As you might guess I'm a big fan of Alex Ross. I'm guessing I'm not alone given the amount of covers that he paints and how hard it is to get the books with those covers. If the trend of the fans is to buy stuff that fools us into thinking it's realistic (none of it's really realistic.. they're comic books) why do editors hire Andrade?

I hate criticizing artists because my mother always told me that I shouldn't criticize unless I can do better myself and, I couldn't draw to save my life, but, what is the deal? I can't stand this guys art. Everyone he draws has a pointy chin and is out of proportion. I've seen some books by him where I can't tell what is going on at all... it's just like a bunch of shapes taking up space.

Is this supposed to be some sort of abstract art that my untrained eye doesn't appreciate? (I needed to have art experts walk me through Picasso before I could start to appreciate him.) So am I uneducated? Do I lack a certain artistic sophistication or is there no there, there? Please, give me your points of view.

Meanwhile, I've almost never not bought a comic book because I didn't like the art, but at four dollars a pop, I just don't have the money to buy all the books I want. I don't think I can buy any more books this guy has drawn unless some genius writer has written some great story that will live in my memory forever and he just happens to be the artist. If it's just an average book (which Onslaught Unleashed was) I just can't afford it.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Brown Tarantula: Part 5

The Brown Tarantula

Copyright Robert F. Sacco

Part 2 is Below on this very page

Part 5: The Unexpected
Brent felt exalted as he vaulted the empty space between rooftops in the pouring rain. He knew that he had jumped from the previous rooftop with more than enough force to clear the alley and land on the next, but he had never done this before tonight and it was more exciting than he would have imagined. He was still amazed that this big, bulky metal armor landed completely silently. He wished he were a scientist so that he could try and figure out how the armor and the car worked. Though, maybe that wouldn't have mattered. His father was convinced that the armor wasn't some kind of super science, but was in fact some sort of magical artifact. Brent didn't have an opinion, all he knew was that he needed to focus because he was headed into a trap.

He had deliberately cut a swath of destruction through the center of the Dunnbrick neighborhood on a straight line for what was probably the largest meth lab in the state. Meth labs are highly explosive so its violent destruction would be spectacular. It was part of a small brownfield that had at one time been called "The Dunnbrick Industrial park" which was a small courtyard surrounded by four large, decaying, brick buildings that had once been a tool factory complex. It would be possible for Charon to fill the, mostly empty, buildings with soldiers at windows, on roofs and on fire escapes. The Tarantula had spent the better part of two nights driving into alleys, springing from his car and attacking thugs. Charon's ambush would be working on the assumption that he would attack the meth lab that way, so, almost all eyes and guns would be pointed towards the central ally's road that the car would have to enter on. However, the car was capable of acting remotely and the Tarantula was capable of traveling roof to roof. This was a chance not only to take down the largest meth lab in the state, but probably a third of Charon's soldiers. It would prove to law enforcement, the community and to organized crime that Charon was over.

 As he landed on the roof of the easternmost building in the complex he didn't even pause to take a deep breath or get his bearings. He just "knew" that there were three men on the other side of the roof facing the court yard and he immediately made another leap which landed him on top of the one in the middle. Three of the armor's mechanical arms immediately lashed out, instantly killing the two on either side of him and thrusting down to kill the one he had landed on. Now he stopped and looked around. "There must be close to a hundred of them" He thought to himself. Four of them just below him on a fire escape. He was sure that the rusted fire escape wouldn't be able to handle the armor's weight and momentum if he just dropped to it, so, from a standing position he allowed himself to fall head first off the edge of the roof, guiding his momentum so that he should crash face first into the side of the building before falling, but, he didn’t fall. Spikes punched out of all six arms and thrust silently into the brick wall. He began to crawl down the side of the wall towards the fire escape like a spider.

He dispatched the thugs on the fire escape as easily as all the others he had killed over the last two nights but this time there was a complication. One of the dying thugs had almost fallen off the fire escape which would have made noise and alerted all the others who were even know straining for the sounds of the car's arrival. He managed to grab the falling Spinoli by the nape of his neck and drag him back onto the fire escape. This had produced a metal on metal noise as the thug's belt buckle scraped the fire escape. Brent froze for twenty seconds to give the army of mobsters the chance to look around and trusted the black and brown of the armor to blend into the darkness.

Once he was sure that he was unobserved he ducked through the window that this fire escape serviced and made his way into the dark, abandoned building.  Over the next five minutes, with a speed that defied description, he slaughtered twenty men. Some, just lurking in the building guarding the thugs' escape route, others at windows waiting for the car, still more on fire escapes. He ended where he had started, on the roof. He looked out across the courtyard and saw that the plan was going well. The car would be pulling in any second now. As the Spinoli's opened fire on it and presumably him, he would leap to the building across the courtyard and duplicate what he had done here, but, even faster as, with all the gunfire, he would no longer need to be concerned about noise. Then, he'd order the car to smash through the meth lab, causing it to explode, taking out most of the men in it and in the building adjacent to it. That would be it, a day's work done and home to work out tomorrow's plan.

On schedule the car rocketed into the courtyard and stopped on a dime as if in defiance of the laws of momentum. The thugs opened fire, sounding to the entire neighborhood like the D-Day Invasion. And then, the unexpected reared its ugly head. Pulling in slightly behind and to the side of the car was a small red Honda Civic. A young woman, drowning in an oversized trench coat and fedora leapt from the car brandishing a revolver that she obviously didn't know how to use and fired wildly in all directions while screaming something mostly unheard over the gunfire but Brent made out "with you" and "Tarantula".

The fact that she wore some sort of domino mask filled him with fear. "Did I inspire this? Is this girl going to die because of the example that I set?" were the thoughts running through his mind as his plan fell apart. He had no choice but to abandon it in order to rescue her. His armor not being bullet proof, only speed could save them. He dived from the building directly at her. He was unafraid, to allow any sort of emotional response would interrupt the concentration needed to do what came next. He maintained the precisely calculated angle of descent, hit the ground near her, rolled in such a way as to scoop her into his arms while simultaneously communicating mentally with the car and getting it to snap off the head lights in order to give them some cover in darkness. During this maneuver bullets whizzed around him, a slug blasted off one of the pincers on the spider faced helmet. It served no purpose, as far as he knew, other than to make it look fierce and frightening but it came awfully close to putting a hole in his head. He pushed himself to move even faster as he rolled himself and the girl out in front of the car. A bullet penetrated the armor and scratched his shoulder, another blew through the girls hat. Again he mentally spoke with the car. With tires still on the ground the car rose up like a monster truck leaving more space between its body and the ground and then rolled over the armored vigilante and girl, providing them with a bulletproof shield. What happened next Brent would never have thought could work but the intuition provided by the armor had so far proven infallible, so, he ordered the car to create an opening at its bottom and scoop him and the girl inside, which, it did much to both of their amazement. Before the girl or the thugs could fully comprehend what was going on, Bent ordered the car to follow through with the last stage of the plan, so the car took off at an impossible speed and plunged straight into the building that housed the meth lab, causing the predicted explosion.

The world seemed to be in slow motion as Brent and Delia, seated safely in the car, rolled through the exploding building. Flame and debris buffeted the vehicle like water and brushes in a mechanical car wash. Brent said, in his best acted, deep, spooky, voice "Who the hell are you?" To which Delia responded " Delia Clarette." Startled, he forgot to maintain the voice and drifted back to his normal tone "As in Rocky Clarette, my grandfather's driver before he found the car?" "My great grandfather." She said. "And he preferred 'sidekick'."  Brent realized that this was trouble.

The Tarantula, and Delia, and the Spinolis had all failed to notice Detective Tom Slovino lurking in the shadows. He had gotten some good pictures of the Tarantula during the leap from the building. He had gotten some very good close ups of Delia. His pride and joy was a picture of the license plate on Delia's Honda.

This Story Has Fifteen Parts. I'll Post Links To Then Next Chapters Here As They Are Published

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Action Comics #900: Truth, Justice and the American Way?

I've heard a tiny bit of buzz in the mainstream media about Superman's decision in Action Comics #900 to renounce his American citizenship. (I can't help but notice that there was no discussion in the actual book as to whether or not he would be giving up Clark Kent's citizenship, which may end up being important as Clark Kent has a birth certificate, a Social Security number, holds a job, pays taxes, has a wife, can vote, serve in the military and given his relationship to Ma and Pa Kent, I can't help but feel that the modern interpretation of Superman thinks of himself first and foremost as Clark Kent.Although I must confess that lately I've seen a lot more of Superman than Clark Kent.) I did hear at least one report that suggested that a new Superman movie may be postponed by the studio to avoid controversy, although really, I haven't heard a lot of outcry.

I think it's only fair to point out that this move has really been a long time coming and has perhaps been Superman's unofficial position for quite some time. I remember an Issue of the Justice League of America Back in the 70's in which it is proclaimed that he fights for "Truth, Justice and the Terran Way." which suggests that as far back as forty years ago he was already thinking of himself as a "citizen of the world" rather than as merely a citizen of one particular country. This has been a trend at DC in particular and to an extent in comics in general for quite some time. Once upon a time the JLA quit referring to themselves as "of America" and became Justice League International, operating under the aegis of the United Nations. The Idea being that DC's superheros were more interested in protecting the entire world rather than expressing one nation's ideology. Of course eventually they became the JLA again but I don't think that this is backsliding. They have maintained a cast that includes aliens, angles and citizens of Paradise Island for quite some time.

Even Marvel got into the act for awhile with the Avengers operating with a United Nations charter after Agent Gyrich became a pain in the you know what, and for many years S.H.I.E.L.D. was identified as a UN group rather than a U.S. group. Although, since the apparently 9/11 inspired Civil War it looks as though the resources of both groups are now property of the USA.

I think much of this goes back to the Nixon Administration's Watergate scandal. I strongly remember an issue of Captain America in which, after a long story arch in which he was fighting The Secret Empire, a hidden criminal conspiracy, Cap finally confronted the mysterious leader of the cabal in, of all places, the Oval Office of the White House. We never saw this guy's face but Cap was shocked enough to suggest to us, the readers, that it was President Nixon himself, who then proceeded to blow off his own head on the White House lawn.

After a series of issues in which Steve Rogers resigned as Captain America and became "Nomad, the man without a country", he eventually returned to being Captain America (the way he will in current comics sometime before July when his movie is released I'll wager.) with the new understanding that representing American ideals is not the same thing as representing the United States government.

Given how divided the population of the United States has been about whoever happens to be running the country over the last decade and a half, I can't help but think that representing the government would only be a good thing with about half the country at any given time, but the ideals of the founding father's and founding documents of the U.S. still seems to fill we Americans with awe and devotion.

Superman's decision and the trend of the JLA goes a step further than this. It eliminates nationalism from the ideal of heroism. In many ways it reflects the ideals of Christianity and Buddhism. Do good and show compassion to others, whether or not they are of your family, creed, nation, tribe or what have you. I think in a world where history has show that nations and whole civilizations are mortal, it is a good thing if the ideal of heroism embraces the whole human race. Though, I think that ideal must also embrace much of the American Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights.

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Brown Tarantula: Part 2

The Brown Tarantula
Copyright Robert F. Sacco

Part 2: The Players
At seven A.M., Charon, boss of bosses, self proclaimed king of the city stood in his luxurious twenty third floor office looking out at what should have been Grand Park, but, was instead a sheet of water pouring from the sky. He was an early riser but he was annoyed to be in the office at this hour. Behind him, his chief goons, Manny and Bill stood quietly, not yet fully awake, on either side of Tusk, the chieftain of The Vampire Bats who was still strung out and very nervous. Charon was nearly shaking in rage but his self control was such that this remained invisible. Tusk had been sputtering for almost fifteen minutes about the events of the previous night. Charon interrupted “So… you’re telling me that two thirds of your soldiers are dead or incapacitated?” “Y Yes sir” Tusk stuttered. “B B But it’s not m my fault. I I told ya… the guy with…” “Six arms, yeah, I heard you, the guy who says I don’t control the streets anymore. He sort of made you useless to me didn’t he?” No longer able to contain his rage he pulled a nickel plated revolver from underneath his hand made suit coat, turned, and shot Tusk once through the face. “Manny, get the cleanup crew in here. Bill, hit the streets, confirm Tusk’s story or find out what really happened.” As the two pinstripe suited thugs opened the door to leave another thought hit Charon. “Have Harvey go up town and talk to some of the old Mafioso types about six arms. I have a hunch this isn’t new. Tell him to be… casual.” “Okay boss.” Bill replied for the both of them.

By late afternoon Charon would know what Detective Tom Slovino had learned reading a file that had been dropped on his desk at noon. Reading the file while eating his lunch had left him with a stomach full of acid and a headache that was the central focus of his world. He stood talking to the sixty five year old file archivist who would be retiring at the end of the week. “You mean to tell me, that seventy years ago, a guy dressed as a tarantula with six, functional, mechanical arms, was wandering the streets murdering gangsters and the cops at the time not only didn’t ever get any real information on him, but, didn’t even put a whole lot of effort into the investigation?” “Gosh Tom, I think it was four mechanical arms, two of um were probably his real arms, ya know? But, yeah… half them guys was on the take back then. The mob probably wanted to sort the guy out themselves, make an example of him. The other half thought, hey, he’s only killing bad guys, he’s doin’ our job for us… ya know? He took down the entire Marino mob for Chrissake! Organized crime didn’t get back on its feet till the late fifties.” Tom wandered back up to his desk muttering to himself. “Doing our job for us!? So they let a mass murderer roam free! Jesus Christ!” He dropped into the swivel chair in his cubical and tried to think past the head and stomach aches. “This guy can’t be nearly a hundred years old. Might be the same suit though, or a copy cat. Time to think about that later. The real question is, what is Charon going to do tonight… and what is The Tarantula going to do about it?”

At four thirty that afternoon Delia Clarette burst through the door of the Brownstown that her family had owned for four generations. It had been lonely here since her mom had passed, but it was spacious and beautiful and she loved it more than any other current aspect of her life. She was very responsible for twenty three years old. She didn’t devote herself to frivolity. She worked hard and studied hard, but she was adrift. She had never known what she wanted out of life. She only ever did what she was supposed to do. Even now with no one looking over her shoulder. She felt the weight of a long family history of prim and proper behavior. Not really being interested in anything that she was doing at school or work, she had considered that it might be time to start looking for Mr. Right, and settling down, getting married, raising a new generation. The idea didn’t particularly appeal to her, but she wasn’t sure what else to do. Luckily prim and proper now included career as an option but she didn’t like that idea either. However, none of that mattered any more. When she had picked up the morning paper she was filled with excitement for the first time in a long time. The front page had screamed the news of the death of almost twenty members of The Vampire Bat Gang. All had spikes thrust through brains or hearts or guts. The paper hadn’t noticed but the MO was the same as a figure that played prominently in her family’s secret. Maybe this was what she’d been waiting for. Maybe this was her destiny. She had been good, gotten through the morning shift at work and afternoon classes, but now she couldn’t contain herself as she vaulted up the stairs to the master bedroom. The bedroom that should now be hers but that she hadn’t had the heart to move into after her mother died. She opened the secret sliding door to the hidden closet wherein the family legend was stored. And, hanging there, as they had been since long before she was born, were the heirlooms of her great grandfather who had been a cabby, a long trench coat for a big man, a weather beaten fedora, a revolver that she knew little about, a billy club, a domino mask and behind glass, a framed newspaper page, whose headline asked “Who is the Tarantula?”

This Story Has 15 Parts. Links Will Appear Here As They Are Published. 
The Brown Tarantula Parts 3 & 6